Today I heard a friend recite the famous poem, 'The Vicar of Bray' which implies that fickleness has been around for a while amongst clergyfolk and I will return to that later.
I am now struggling to recall the innocence of my faith... at the moment so much of what has just transpired in the recent Synod seems to bear little relationship to real church. Additionally, the recent research which revealed the sermon is the 'best bit' of a church service even skirts the point that church services, generally, are very, very naff!
I know there are some churches that are exploring new ways of enhancing worship (Fresh Expressions being one such initiative) and I think that is brilliant, however, where the church is really part of (or becomes) the surrounding community that is what really encourages me to think all hope is not lost. Ok, there was a Synod presentation about Mission covering Fresh Expressions and there was Revd David Gamble's interesting 'offer' from the Methodists, which actually hid both a reproach and a challenge of priorities.
But whilst endless debates continue about all the current obsessions (whichever way you look) then us 'lay' folk lose more faith, both in the established church and the clergy. The trouble is the whole system is run by differing strata of... yet more clergy, ranging from humble deacons to Archbishops. That immediately means there are issues to deal with including:
- Inequality: This is usually manifest in the clergy / non clergy divide.
- Superiority: Why do C of E clergy give out the impression they are 'above' other ordained clergy/pastors in other denominations (except, maybe, Catholics priests?!!)?
At the risk of sounding old (rather than mature, of course!) I used to love going to conferences and gatherings where we listened to a proper preacher and sang our hearts out! I now learn the evangelical nature of those meetings is seriously frowned upon by Anglo-Catholics and Liberals... it seems faith has to be liberalised, have more doubt, more skepticism, no longer enjoyed, kept to one denomination and it seems we are not even allowed to describe ourselves as a 'Christian' anymore. Don't completely dis the evangelicals, though, they come in many shapes and sizes!
This leads me to my final point: why is the church so demonstrably partisan? It seems the C of E thinks it is different to 'free' churches and the mounting divide between those declaring Catholic 'tendencies' and steadfast C of E communicants is hardly new? The Vicar of Bray actually kept his post through a series of major varieties of governance, perhaps, after all, he was more of a servant to his flock than the humour in the poem implies as he 'cheerfully' reversed his principles?
I have never felt I was one denomination or another, despite worshipping in various denominations as geography dictated. I cannot understand why some folk filling forms with 'C of E' in the 'Religion' field? Surely we are simply Christians? So why does it feel as though I have to declare I am Anglican / C of E? Nope, that is never going to happen!!!